All eyes are on tourism-related developments in Abu Dhabi as the UAE capital gears up to attract more than 2.7 million visitors a year by 2012.
To boost tourism, Abu Dhabi's Policy Agenda 2007-2008 asserts the capital must offer a unique experience to visitors, setting it apart from other places in the region vying for a slice of the profitable tourism pie, according to The Report Abu Dhabi 2008.
As part of the transformation, Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), a master developer of cultural, residential and tourism destinations in Abu Dhabi, is expected to deliver 7000 hotel rooms of the projected 30,000.
Major hotel brands taking spots on flagship development, Saadiyat Island, include the 404-room Grand Millennium Corniche Hotel and the Regent Emirates Pearl Abu Dhabi, a 47-storey hotel to be managed by Rezidor Hotel's Regent Hotels & Resorts.
A number of milestones are also scheduled on the island for 2009. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is due to open this month and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum and the Zayed National Museum are expected to open in the third quarter.
The Gary Player-designed championship Saadiyat Beach Golf Course and Saadiyat Bridge are also scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Furthermore, as November fast approaches, phase one of theYas Island project is speeding along, ready for the Formula 1 Grand Prix series.
"And it's all going to schedule," according to Paul Bell, managing director of Aldar Hotels and Hospitality, the company developing seven hotels on the island.
"It was our responsibility to determine which brands we used and to get those operators on board and up and ready for the race. Everything we're doing is focused on that deadline," says Bell.
The company has selected six brands to manage the hotels. Two will be operated by International Hotels Group (IHG)-owned Crowne Plaza and Staybridge Suites.
"This is the second Staybridge in the Middle East and the first in the UAE. The extended-stay product is a new concept in this part of world, comprising of studios and one-bedroom apartments for guests staying around 12 days or more," says Bell.
Two of the hotels will be managed by Rotana Hotels; A Rotana Resort and a newly-developed three-star product, Rotana Centro.
"Rotana Centro is geared at the mid market. We're keen to make sure that we offer products on Yas Island to cater to all consumers' budgets," adds Bell.
Rezidor Hotel Group has also been selected for its core Radisson brand and mid-market Park Inn brand, again offering two different price points.
The island's signature property, The Yas Island Hotel, will be operated by Aldar, it was recently revealed by hoteliermiddleeast.com.
The five-star hotel, which is located above one of the main racetrack grandstands, will be the developer's first venture as an operator.
As well as the hotels and racetrack, phase one of the Yas Island development includes Ferrari World themepark and three golf courses.
"Ferrari World is going to be a very good-looking building on Yas Island, with the red Ferrari logo on top. Most of the themepark will be indoors; we'll have attractions, several roller coasters and a lot of dark rides with Ferrari-related content," said Yas Island Themeparks general manager Claus Frimand.
"There'll be lots of F&B opportunities, from table-serviced restaurants to cafes. There's going to be several merchandise locations and something for all age groups - from driving experiences to thrill rides," he added.
The next phases of the project will include a water park, a retail development covering 300,000m², lagoon hotels, marinas, polo clubs, residential areas and numerous F&B outlets.
Newest hotels in town
Starwood Hotels and Resorts' latest brand Aloft will open its first Middle East property in Abu Dhabi in mid-October.
The 408-room hotel, located at the Capital Centre, part of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), positions itself as a four-star hotel, but "it's not about silver spoons or silver service, it's a social place," says Aloft Abu Dhabi and Element Abu Dhabi complex director of sales and marketing Rene Camilleri.
"The DNA of the brand comes from the W brand - it's about being savvy and sassy - and the target age group is 25 to 45. They're well-travelled people who want things that are uncomplicated and rooms that are functional and technologically advanced," Camilleri says.
To cater to this market, rooms will feature extras, such as plug-and-play docking stations for iPod or laptops to be beamed onto a 42-inch screen, and F&B on a ‘grab-and-go' basis.
The product is less expensive than the W collection and is expected to attract corporates and short-stay leisure guests.
Prices are expected to be relatively high during convention periods, but off peak, Camilleri says rates may start from around $200 a night.
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts
Luxury brand Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open its first UAE property in Abu Dhabi in 2012.
The Rosewood Abu Dhabi is being developed by Mubadala Development Company on Sawwah Island in Abu Dhabi's new Central Business District.
The five-star, 34-story resort will be a modern structure, comprising 190 rooms and suites, 140 serviced residencies, numerous retail and F&B outlets and the brand's signature wellness and fitness retreat Sense, A Rosewood Spa.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Fairmont Abu Dhabi Creek is a five-star beachfront business resort, comprising 369 rooms and expected to open in 2011.The hotel is the luxury brand's second property in the UAE - the Fairmont Dubai the first.
Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
Shangri-La has signed an agreement with the Al Jaber Group to manage four-star Traders Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, due to open this summer.
The hotel will feature 301 guest rooms and suites, waterfront dining and boutique shopping, an authentic Arabic souk and outdoor swimming pools.
Guests can also enjoy all of the restaurants and recreational facilities within the Qaryat Al Beri complex, located just a short drive from the city centre and the airport, including signature wellness retreat CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La.
There is an executive floor with a private lounge, complimentary refreshments and a dedicated concierge, plus two conference spaces for small- to medium-sized meetings.
"It's for mid-market and business travellers. Guests are getting four-star rates with five-star facilities and it's the only four-star hotel on the beach," says Shangri-La hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, director of sales and marketing Levant Tekün.
Anantara Qasr Al Sarab Abu Dhabi
Anantara-managed luxury leisure resort will comprise 154 rooms, 42 villas and 10 royal villas and, according to developers TDIC, the project is on schedule to open at the end of the year. Etihad launches DMCEtihad Airways will launch its own destination management company to provide a diverse range of leisure and business activities for visitors to the capital.
The new DMC will work closely with Etihad Holidays and is expected to offer tours, desert safaris, event management, bespoke packages and VIP services.
Airport expandsAbu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) announced in April that Abu Dhabi International Airport Terminal 3 (T3) is fully operational. The US $272.6 million facility has expanded the airport's capacity to 12 million passengers a year, more than a five million increase.
The terminal comprises 10 departure gates and covers an area of 88m². The duty free hosts 19 retail boutiques, including luxury brands Cartier, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Rolex, among others.
T3 is part of a $6.8-million redevelopment of Abu Dhabi International Airport, which will eventually increase the overall capacity to 20 million passengers a year. With the third terminal and a second runway finished, a new Airport Traffic Control (ATC) tower and the Midfield Terminal Complex will complete the project within the next few years.
Kayak ‘eco-tours' launched
Full-time dad of two, Don Revis, likes nothing better than to tour Abu Dhabi's islands by kayak.
His hobby has stirred a huge interest among residents and tourists, leading him to set up Nakhuda Adventure Company, offering kayak eco-tours and fishing to tourists.
"Kayaking shows a different side of Abu Dhabi and is something for tourists to do besides going to a mall. It's been very popular. We've had so many bookings that I've been doing tours for two months straight with only two days off." says Revis.
To cater to demand, the company expects to take on three fulltime guides in September and increase its kayak fleet, which currently comprises 20 single and double kayaks.
An island excursion lasts four-to-six hours, includes a barbeque lunch and a 10km paddle from Abu Dhabi towards Saadiyat Island into the mangrove forests.
"The guided tour explains the role the mangroves play in the ecology of Abu Dhabi. Around 70% of all of the Gulf's fish are born in these forests," says Revis.
"The mangroves are also an important nest for flamingos, herons and many species of migrating birds," he adds.
So far tours have been sold through word of mouth, but Revis says he is looking to work with travel agents in the region.
For further details call Don Revis on +971 (0)50 542 0820.
Falcon hospital gets conference wing Following a huge increase in its meetings and incentive business, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital will open its new conference centre in June. The Al Shaheen Centre, named after the smallest and fastest falcon, will cater to 200 delegates.
"The conference centre is unlike any other. Delegates on a lunch- or coffee break will be able to see falcons flying around through a large, glass dividing wall," says deputy manager Amer Abu Aabed.
"They'll get the opportunity to hold, feed and take pictures of the falcons. We also have a shop so they can buy something to remember the experience," he adds.
Packages are still being developed for the corporate market, but are likely to include lunch and refreshments and a tour of the hospital, with information provided in Arabic, English, French and German.
The centre, which opened in 1999, introduced its tourism programme in 2007 and currently works with several tour operators in the region.
For more information visit www.falconhospital.comFor all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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